INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - IndyCar drivers want a safer sport, and Monday, they'll take their concerns straight to the top.
Most of this season's competitors are expected to meet with series CEO Randy Bernard. During the meeting, each driver is expected to get several minutes to explain his or her suggestions.
The meeting comes less than 48 hours after English driver Dan Wheldon was buried in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, and less than 24 hours after a public memorial service was held in Indianapolis . Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, was killed in a fiery, 15-car crash at IndyCar's season-ending race at Las Vegas — a melee that has created scrutiny about safety issues in a series that prides itself on having the world's fastest drivers.
"I think now is the time for everybody to get out there and say what needs to be said because we've got six months (till the next race), so we have time," Graham Rahal said Sunday. "There should be no excuses. I just hope that everyone can stand up and work with us. If anybody has been there to help us, and I know he's taken a lot of heat the last few days, it's been him (Bernard)."
Safety concerns have been an issue in IndyCar since before the 2011 season began.
The first complaints emerged in January when Bernard announced the series would have double-file restarts. NASCAR has used the concept for several years, but IndyCar drivers, some of whom had Cup experience, contended it couldn't work in a series where bump-and-run strategy and trading paint don't exist.
After some early wrecks, drivers and series officials finally figured out how to make it work.
But that didn't end the consternation.
Whether it was radiation concerns at the series' final Japan race, the botched restart at New Hampshire, inconsistent penalty calls or a series of pit road tangles drivers, team officials and team owners voiced their concerns often throughout the season. Many felt they were not being heard.
It happened again before the Vegas race when some drivers contended starting 34 cars on Vegas' 1.5-mile banked oval was a dangerous mix. It was.
Wheldon and series runner-up Will Power both went airborne in the 15-car pileup, and Wheldon's car spun into the catch-fence. An autopsy revealed Wheldon died from blunt force trauma to the head.
"We need to talk about things on a much larger scale," said Alex Lloyd, who was advised early in his IndyCar by Wheldon. "It's not just what happened in this accident, it's all possible scenarios. I think there will be a lot of topics discussed, and I think it will be very beneficial to all of us."
Drivers have spent the past week hashing out ideas through email correspondence, and Rahal said that instead of getting or two responses, as is customary, nearly every driver had something to say. He hopes that's the case again Monday.
Series officials have already approved a new 2012 car, a model Wheldon tested, that is intended to incorporate new safety technologies. Among the changes are bumpers that could help limit the possibility of cars going airborne.
Drivers also want the series to look at everything from the tracks being used by the series to the combinations of horsepower and grip, and Rahal even suggested the possibility of using canopies on open-wheel cars.
But can the series do anything to avoid another fatality? Probably not.
"We want to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again," Lloyd said. "But in racing nothing has ever been 100 percent safe."
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